This morning I picked up my Top 500 Poems to see what had been penned about Christmas many years ago and in scanning the table of contents, one titled ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ seemed appropriate. Imagine my surprise when I turned to page 475 and read the first line – ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house’.
A Visit from St Nicholas was written in 1822 by Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of religion in New York. He refused to have it published, but a friend sent it to an out of town newspaper where it was published – anonymously – in time for Christmas 1823. Moore eventually included it in his collected works 15 years later but continued to maintain that it was a ‘mere trifle’
Every festive season since I was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’, my head has been filled with little snippets like ’twas the night before Christmas’, ‘a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer’ and those famous reindeer names – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, ‘Donna’ and Blitzen.
This mere trifle has continued to shape the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve for children (big and small) the world over so it seems a fitting finale to this year’s Gidday Christmas Countdown. So I leave you to embrace the child within and wish you all the very best of everything your heart desires this Christmas.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief’, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to the objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
Illustration by F.O.C. Darley at about.com
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.
His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of his pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of an eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
~ Clement Clarke Moore 1779-1863 ~